Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not Quite Done...

The Pirates are still putting the finishing touches on their roster. Guys in motion:

-- MLB Trade Rumors wrote the Bucs claimed reliever Tim Wood, 28, from the Nats. They didn't say whether it was a minor or major league deal; by his stats (1-1, 4.32 ERA career, 1.600 WHIP, 1/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) it should be an Indy deal; we don't see where he's an improvement on Chris Leroux.

Wood, a righty, has a reverse split for his short career; lefties hit eighty points lower against him than righties, .244 - .324, so if added to the MLB roster, he could bump Olson out of that last spot even if GO is the only southpaw reliever.

(EDIT - reports say he's being sent to Indy, which makes sense.)

-- Jose Veras was added to the 40-man roster; Ramon Aguero was DFA'ed. Aguero, 26, was a flamethrower but didn't have much success as an upper level reliever.

-- Chris Snyder, Brad Lincoln, Jose Ascanio and Scott Olsen were put on the 15-day DL today; the Bucs waited to the last moment (rosters had to be in at 11) to finalize their status.

-- The Pirates are trying to land a MLB gig via the trade route for Andy Marte, who had a strong spring for the Bucs.

-- As long as we're talking deal, Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette tweeted that the Bucs are still scouting for some pitching.

-- Speaking of pitching, Pittsburgh got an encouraging start out of James McDonald. He went five frames against the Yankee's AAA team and gave up a run on four hits, a walk, and four Ks. He threw 69 pitches, and should be on track to start the season.

-- Pittsburgh will wear the number seven on their sleeve during the season to commemorate Chuck Tanner.

-- While they were at it, the Bucs released a handful of minor league guys: Adenson Chourio, Christian Colonel, Casey Erickson, Pat Irvine, Gerlis Rodriguez, Jose Luis Solano, and Mike Williams.

The pair who were interesting were infielder Chourio, a good gloveman who couldn't hit his weight (and he's a little guy) and Erickson, a pitcher who put up good numbers in High A, but at 25 had too many people ahead of him and too many youngsters chasing him.

Bucs Set 25-Man Roster/Outlook

With Chris Leroux's assignment to Indy, the Bucs' opening day 2011 roster is set. The big league team:

Starters: RHPs Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Charlie Morton, Ross Ohlendorf and LHP Paul Maholm.

Bullpen: RHPs Mike Crotta, Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jose Veras & LHP Garrett Olson.

Catchers: Ryan Doumit (SH), Jason Jaramillo (SH).

Infielders: Pedro Alvarez (LH), Ronny Cedeno (RH), Lyle Overbay (LH), Steve Pearce (RH), Josh Rodriguez (RH) and Neil Walker (SH).

Outfielders: John Bowker (LH), Matt Diaz (RH), Garrett Jones (LH), Andrew McCutchen (RH) and Jose Tabata (RH).

The outlook:

The starting pitching is the key, and it's loaded with questions, like whassup with Ohlie, how will J-Mac progress as a starter, and what season will we get out of Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Charlie Morton - 2009 or 2010?

There's nothing resembling an ace in the group, but all of them are capable of tossing 150-200 IP and putting up an ERA of four or so. If that happens, the Pirates may see 75 wins, and while that doesn't snap the futility streak, it is a big step up from last year's finish.

So we'll see how the quiz gets answered. And hey, if a repeat of 2010's performance is what's in the cards - and we think they'll be noticeably improved - at least the cavalry is starting to ride up the hill, represented by the arms of Brad Lincoln, Bryan Morris and Rudy Owens.

Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson aren't far removed from that list, and there are a horde of young guns still learning their craft in the lower levels.

It's a staff that's built to be placeholders for the young guys; we're still a couple of seasons removed from seeing the awaited transition take place.

The bullpen is young and throws bullets for the most part; how well Hanny and Meek close out games will define the relief corps this season. It has the potential to be strong if they can carry the load.

Veras and Resop are more than adequate bridge men, and Karstens and Crotta can handle long duty. Gregg Olson is the lefty wild card, but Joe Beimel should be back before too long, and Chris Leroux should be able to step in if one of the righties falter.

Dan Moskos, Ramon Aguerro and Tony Watson got some love in the spring, but all three have to show they can handle a AAA batter before they're penciled in as part of the future.

It would be a great help if the starting pitchers can get into the seventh inning or deeper this year. Clint Hurdle is trying to install that mind-set, and except for Ohlie, the message seems to be sinking in.

The position players, for once, have their roles clearly defined and won't have to look over their shoulders this year. McCutch is a star in the making, Overbay is Garrett Jones with a glove at first, and the Jones/Diaz tandem in right is a big upgrade in the power department.

Tabata, Alvarez and Walker will face the sophomore jinx challenge, and judging by camp and past experiences, Pedro will have the hardest adjustment; power hitters take a little longer to settle into a groove as a general rule.

The Snyder/Dewey duet should be better behind the plate as the Bucs prepare for a Tony Sanchez takeover in 2012; Jaramillo should be adequate behind him.

Ronny Cedeno, we suspect, is getting his last chance to prove that he can focus every day instead of a week or two at a time. Even without outside help, Rodriguez and Pedro Ciriaco could step in for him this season, while Chase d'Arnaud tries to reclaim his shortstop-in-waiting status.

The bench was selected for offensive potential; only Steve Pearce brings a top-notch glove to the parade. They don't run very well, either. But Rodriguez is a MLB-grade prospect, Bowker showed some springtime muscle, and the punch they provide may overcome the lack of a pinch runner or true center field back-up without a lot of position-shuffling.

The Pirate FO has a bias for power pitching, and it shows in how they're building the team. Overbay is the only guy that can consistently glove a grounder, but the outfield, especially with Jones getting the lion's share of starts, should be able to run balls down.

And that's good news in the long run as the Bucs swap out finesse arms for heat-seekers; Pittsburgh is much better built defensively right now for fly-ball pitchers that can mix some Ks into the mix.

The managing will be as good as the players, as always. Hurdle has stressed a couple of 2010 weak points in the spring, emphasizing that the squad develop an aggressive attitude on the bases and slow down their opponents, with mixed success.

But his media value as a spokesman for a team that regularly shoots itself in the foot PR-wise will be welcome; the taciturn JR often turned off fans with his quiet demeanor, who often took his John Wayne act as a sign of indifference. So that's a major plus in itself.

Our guess is this team should win 70-75 games, and will be the foundation for future years. That's not much solace for the impatient fan base, but building from scratch takes time, and the clock has at last started.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Morton Mows Down Phils 4-1

Let's hope Charlie Morton keeps on keepin' on; he threw a very sweet game in his final warm-up of the spring, leading the Bucs to a 4-1 win over the Phils, finishing camp with a 2.63 ERA.

He went five innings, giving up an unearned run on five hits with two Ks and two walks. Mike Crotta, Chris Resop, Joel Hanrahan and Jared Hughes (6'7" RHP who pitched for Altoona in 2010) went the last four frames allowing just one hit.

The big blow for the Pirates was a two-run shot by Pedro off Cole Hamels in the second; John Bowker and minor-leaguer Jordy Mercer had the other RBI. Jose Tabata and Jason Jaramillo had a pair of knocks to lead the 12-hit attack.

The Bucs were 3-of-16 RISP and stranded eight, but when the pitchers surrender just a pair of hits, it was plenty efficient enough.

The Bucs will enjoy the win with an off day, and start the games that count on Friday at Wrigley Field. Kevin Correia will face Ryan Dempster. The game will start at 2:20PM and be shown on FSN/Root Sports.

-- The Pirates did their final housekeeping chore today, sending Chris Leroux to Indy.

-- Jim Negrych asked for a deal if he wasn't going to Indy, and he got his wish, going instead to the Marlins for Class A catcher Carlos Paulino. Paulino, 21, started as an infielder, and is a small, fast receiver with good defensive skills but a quiet bat. Neither were Top Thirty prospects, so it's pretty much an organizational move by both clubs.

It Wasn't Pretty...

Ohlie was beat up again, the Bucs played like a little league club behind him (Dewey threw a ball into center, and Ronny Cedeno muffed a DP grounder), and the result was a 8-5 loss to the Phils, a team that certainly doesn't need gifted with extra at-bats.

For Ross Ohlendorf, it was the same ol'. In four innings, he gave up six runs (four earned), seven hits, a walk and three hit batsmen while tossing 94 not-very-well-aimed pitches. His camp ERA came in at 9.82.

He says that he's ready, but the truth is he hasn't gone five innings once during camp. Ohlie seems lost with Clint Hurdle's emphasis on quick releases and holding runners; it's a distraction to him and leads to some long frames, which doesn't help his teammates in the field. Let's hope the regular season sharpens his concentration.

Mike Dubee, Garrett Olson and Jose Veras shut the door on Philly; Chris Leroux gave up an earned run and Evan Meek an unearned one thanks to Neil Walker's misplay.

Ah well, at least the top of the order still hit some. Neil Walker collected three hits, McCutch a pair, and Lyle Overbay finished the spring with hits in 14 of his past 16 games.

It would have helped the cause if the rest of the lineup could have chipped in; only Dewey had a hit outside of those three, and the team had just five knocks.

Charlie Morton will face Cole Hamels in the final exhibition game today at 4:05 PM.

-- The word is that RHP Mike Crotta will make the 25-man roster; that leaves the last spot the coin flip between Garrett Olson and Chris Leroux. That decision could come down today, unless somebody the FO just can't resist pops up on the waiver wire.

-- The Pirates will have nine holdovers from 2010's opening day roster: Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo, Garrett Jones, Paul Maholm, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton and Ross Ohlendorf.

-- Baseball announced a new DL designation. There will be a 7-day slot available now for concussions, a good move by the suits to allow guys time to recover from minor dings and be properly evaluated for more serious blows.

-- RHP Jeff Suppan's pixie dust finally blew away; the inning-eater was released by the Giants yesterday.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Notes On Leaving Florida...

-- The Bucs lost again, 4-3, to the Twins. The important part was how Jeff Karstens did, and his performance was more than solid. He went 4-2/3 frames (five seems to be his limit) and JK gave up an unearned run on five hits with a walk and a whiff.

Garrett Olson and Chris Resop threw scoreless innings; Mike Cotta yielded a run and Anthony Claggett gave up a pair in the ninth to absorb the loss. The regulars got through the game in one piece, and McCutch, Steve Pearce and Matt Diaz had RBI; Pearce, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker scored.

The Pirates take on Philly tomorrow, with Ohlie getting the call against Roy Oswalt. They'll do it again Wednesday, and Friday will start the marathon.

-- INF Josh Fields was traded to the Rockies for a PTBNL or cash, helping to ease the crush at Indy a bit.

-- Rule 5 give-away RHP Nathan Adcock made the Royals' roster, so it's possible Pittsburgh may not see him again. It's equally possible he may be returned in a few weeks, so we'll see how his status plays out.

-- Jim Negrych, Pitt product and Bucco farmhand, told Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror that if he isn't assigned to AAA this year, he wants his release from the Pittsburgh organization. The 26 year-old is a Delwyn Young clone; his bat should play in the show, but he doesn't have a position to call his own.

-- The Chief, big RH fireballer Romulo Sanchez, who had a cup of joe with Pittsburgh, saw his rights sold to a Japanese team by the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers picked him up from the Pirates a couple of years ago for Eric Hacker.

-- Local boy INF Josh Wilson was released by the Mariners today.

Last Florida Lineup

Jeff Karstens will pitch the final grapefruit league game of 2011 for the Bucs against Minnesota's Francisco Liriano. The game begins at 1:05 PM.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit DH, Steve Pearce 1B, Matt Diaz RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Josh Rodriguez 3B and Jason Jaramillo C.

Pitching: Jeff Karstens, TBA.

The Pirates will leave after today's game to fly to Philly for a two-game set, then it's off to Wrigley for Friday's opener.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bucs Play Option Game

The beat gang reports that Pirates infielder Pedro Ciriaco was optioned to AAA Indianapolis this afternoon, so Rule 5 pick Josh Rodriguez has made the club. The Bucs couldn't swing a deal with Cleveland to keep Rodriguez, at least to date, so Ciriaco and his option lost out.

GM Neal Huntington said that Chris Snyder is "very probable" to open the season on the DL.That means that the Pirates can carry both Jason Jaramillo and John Bowker. Bowker was out of options, while JJ has one remaining.

The Pirates have found a way to stockpile, at least for the short term, all their out-of-option players. Rodriguez, Bowker, and Charlie Morton all made the team; Garrett Olson is a pretty safe bet to stick, too. Kevin Hart is on the DL, and Jose Ascanio is in all likelihood going to join him shortly.

Our only concerns with picking J-Rod over Ciriaco are speed and defense for the big club, and a logjam of infielders at Indy. The Pirates don't have a bench guy that can run, and it looks like Garrett Jones becomes Jose Tabata's back-up, at least at PNC Park, while Tabata is McCutch's caddy. Ciriaco was being groomed for that double-duty job.

Maybe Ronny Cedeno is the one the Turk should have visited; he hit .226 in the spring and drew one walk in 54 plate appearances. Oh, he's out of options, too. We'll see how he plays out this season.

As for Indy, Brian Friday and Ciriaco will be holdovers in the middle infield along with Corey Wimberly, while all of the Altoona gang - Chase d'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison - are looking for a move to AAA and some at-bats. Following the minor league assignments should be a hot side story this year, for a welcome change.

Before we get too righteous, it's also possible the FO has some irons in the fire. They could still be working on some deals, including for Rodriguez or Dewey, and may be considering switching some positions; Wimberly may end up in Indy's OF. And they may feel that all the Altoona guys aren't ready to step up yet. There are still some moving parts that are waiting to settle.

As for the bullpen, two spots are open for three guys, Garrett Olson, Mike Crotta, and Chris Leroux. Olson is the surest bet, being both the sole lefty with Joe Beimel on ice, and out of options. Leroux has an option remaining, and Crotta has all three of his to burn.

Of course, that's dependent on who gets the ax around the league as the camps wind down; the Bucs love to dumpster-dive.

That's the last roster decision to be made before it's time to play ball for real on of now.

Bucs Snap Streak, Win 5-4

Paul Maholm worked five innings, gave up five hits, three earned runs, struck out five and yielded two home runs as the Pirates topped the Rays 5-4 this afternoon.

The Rays went up in the second when Kelly Shoppach blasted a solo homer; the Bucs tied it in the third when Neil Walker scored on a McCutch bounce-out.

Ben Zobrist put Tampa back up with a solo shot in the fifth, and Reid Brignac's single that plated Elliot Johnson later in the frame upped the lead to 3-1. Jose Tabata answered with a bomb of his own to make it 3-2.

An inning later, Dewey gave the Bucs a 4-3 lead with a clutch two-out double that sent McCutch and Pedro home. The game stayed that way until the ninth thanks to Joel Hanrahan, who tossed two scoreless innings and K'ed three.

John Jaso tied the game with yet another solo blast, this one off Chris Leroux. The Pirates were handed a gift and the game when third baseman Daniel Mayora threw away a Pedro Ciriaco grounder, allowing Josh Rodriguez to scamper home with the game-ending run.

The Pirates play their final game in Florida tomorrow when they square off against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers at 1:05 PM. Jeff Karstens will start for Pittsburgh against the Twin's Francisco Liriano in a warm-up outing in case J-Mac can't go next week.

Then the team jumps on the big bird and flies north to Philadelphia to play exhibition games against the Phillies on Tuesday and Wednesday, then on to Wrigley Field for the opener against the Cubbies on Friday. It's almost showtime.

-- McKechnie Field drew 88,003 fans during the Grapefruit League season, a new home attendance record.

-- The Pirates broke a five game losing streak with today's win, but still have lost nine of their last dozen games.

-- Pirate killer Mike Hampton officially retired. He was 14-3 with a 2.38 ERA against Pittsburgh during his career.

Lineups, Notes

Pittsburgh - Tampa Bay:

Lineup - Jose Tabata LF, Niel Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Matt Diaz RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Ryan Doumit C, Ronny Cedeno SS and Paul Maholm P.

Pitching - Paul Maholm, Joel Hanrahan, Chris Leroux.

David Price will start for Tampa.

-- J-Mac threw three frames against the Yankee AAA club; he'll get some more work on the last day of camp, and if there are no setbacks, he should be able to pitch when the season starts from the five-hole in the rotation.

-- Clint Hurdle sorta announced his 2011 batting order, although it's not set in stone, and has already lined up his starting pitching. It looks like this:

Against righties: Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Lyle Overbay, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit/Chris Snyder & Ronny Cedeno.

Against lefties: Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Diaz, Pedro Alvarez, Lyle Overbay, Chris Snyder, & Ronny Cedeno.

Rotation: Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton & James McDonald.

-- We're guessing that the FO has their opening day roster set, but won't announce it until they see who gets set loose on the final cut-downs around the league, just in case someone juicy pops up on the waiver wire. They also have to determine if Chris Snyder can go or not when the opening bell rings before handing out the 25th spot.

-- Hey, guess who's back in the NL Central? The Nationals have sent Nyjer Morgan to the Brewers in exchange for Cutter Dykstra, Lenny's kid. The bloom faded from Nyjer's rose quickly enough in DC.

Yanks Send Bucs To Fifth Straight Loss 4-2

Well, at least the pitching was OK, even if the results were the same.

Kevin Correia tossed six innings, giving up three runs on five hits, and he struck out five and walked two while throwing 92 pitches. At least he's stretched out for the season. The line wasn't as bad as it looks; he surrendered a two-out, two-run blast to A-Rod in the opening frame.

The Pirates got a run back in the second when Jason Jaramillo doubled in Pedro to make it 2-1.

From there, the Yankees went ahead 3-1 in the fourth on a Chris Dickerson single that brought home Nick Swisher. Neil Walker cut the gap to one again in the top of the fifth with a sacrifice fly to tally Jose Tabata, who had tripled in front of him.

After Jose Veras pitched a clean seventh, Mike Crotta gave up his first earned run of the spring in the eighth on a single, sac bunt, and two-out knock.

The Bucs had ten hits, but stranded eight and were 0-for-5 RISP.

The Pirates play their final home Grapefruit League game at 1:05PM, hosting the Tampa Bay Rays at McKechnie Field, with Paul Maholm taking on David Price.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting Closer...

The Pirates sent four more guys to minor league camp: Andy Marte, Corey Wimberly, Dusty Brown and Brian Burres. Marte was a small surprise because he had been hitting so well in camp; ditto for Burres because of the scarcity of lefties on the roster. They need to pare seven more players to get down to their 25-man roster.

Who's in (19): Pedro Alvarez, Joe Beimel, Ronny Cedeno, Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz, Ryan Doumit, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, Paul Maholm, Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, Ross Ohlendorf, Lyle Overbay, Chris Resop, Chris Snyder, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker

Don't count Joe Beimel against the roster quite yet; the Pirates have said that he won't be ready to start the season. J-Mac and Chris Snyder are also banged up; their status is uncertain.

Who's probably in (4): Jeff Karstens, Jose Veras, Garrett Olson, Steve Pearce.

Who's on the bubble (9): Jose Ascanio, John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Crotta, Jason Jaramillo, Chris Leroux, Brad Lincoln, Scott Olsen, Josh Rodriguez.

Ascanio & Olsen will likely go on the DL; Lincoln is Indy-bound once his bruised arm heals. Crotta probably is too, just because of the numbers game, but has opened some eyes in camp. He or Leroux will get the shot as Beimel's replacement to start the season. Jaramillo's status is tied up with Snyder's health.

Two of the three of the Bowker-Ciriaco-Rodriguez will make the trip north. Bowker is out of options and Rodriguez has to be returned to Cleveland if he doesn't make the MLB roster, but Ciriaco has played the best of the three.

Our guess at the final roster:

Starting Pitchers (5) Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, James McDonald, Charlie Morton, Ross Ohlendorf.

Scott Olsen will start the year on the DL, and Brad Lincoln will join Indy's rotation after a solid camp.

Bullpen (7) Mike Crotta, Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Garrett Olson, Chris Resop, Jose Veras.

Chris Leroux could bump Crotta for Beimel's spot; both are OK with options.

Not on opening roster due to injury) Joe Beimel

Starting Players (10) Pedro Alvarez, Ronny Cedeno, Matt Diaz, Ryan Doumit, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Lyle Overbay, Chris Snyder, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker.

Bench Players (3) John Bowker, Pedro Ciriaco, Steve Pearce.

This gets real interesting. Ciriaco gets the edge over Josh Rodriguez because he can play left or center, as Pittsburgh has no replacement for McCutch or Tabata, but J-Rod's status as a Rule 5 guy could make the difference. Bowker is in just as a lefty off the bench; Pearce is the righty. JJ played well in camp, but he's an insurance policy.

At any rate, it's something to talk about until Friday, when the rosters have to be set.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rays Salt Away Morton And Bucs 9-5

Geez, it's becoming a broken record. Charlie Morton, who entered today's match with a 1.29 ERA, gave up five runs in five innings while the bullpen threw some gas on the fire as Joel Hanrahan and Chris Resop each gave up a pair of tallies in the Bucs' 9-5 loss to the Rays.

Morton gave up his five runs on five hits with two walks, a hit batsman, and two K's. Hanny threw an inning and yielded two runs on one hit, two walks, and two wild pitches. Resop tossed a frame and surrendered two runs on three hits, two for extra bases. Ouch!

On the bright side, Jose Veras did pitch a clean inning with a whiff.

All three guys battling for the middle infield bench spot had a hit. Pedro Ciriaco scored and had a stolen base, ditto for Corey Wimberly, and Josh Rodriguez doubled in two runs.

As for the corner bench wanna-bes, Andy Marte pounded out two more knocks, including a double - he's hitting .364 - and scored twice while Steve Pearce, batting .283, wore the collar today. Dewey doubled home a run, Morton knocked in another, and Matt Diaz scored.

For the Pirates, it was their fourth loss in a row and eighth in the past ten outings, not exactly how you want to come out of the spring.

It doesn't get easier; Pittsburgh faces the Yankees tomorrow. Kevin Correia is going against a Yank TBA. The game will be shown on FSN/Root Sports at 1:05 PM.

-- James McDonald will throw in a minor league game tomorrow; it's still iffy as to whether he'll be able to go for his first scheduled regular season start on April 5th.

-- Neil Huntington said Joe Beimel won't be ready for the start of the season, and gave no ETA for his comeback. Since he's on a minor-league deal, he doesn't have to be stashed on the DL; he can either rehab in Florida or if prolonged, at Indy, which starts play on April 7th.

-- The clock is ticking. Teams must set their 25-man rosters by 11 AM on March 31st, less than a week from now. And all the pitchers are making their final spring starts; the time for fine tuning is over.

Bucs Cull Herd, Face Rays

Pirates at Tampa Bay, 1:05 PM; Charlie Morton vs. Jeff Niemann.

Lineup: Pedro Ciriaco CF, Josh Rodriguez SS, John Bowker LF, Ryan Doumit C, Steve Pearce 3B, Matt Diaz R), Andy Marte 1B, Corey Wimberly 2B and Charlie Morton P.

Pitching: Charlie Morton, Joel Hanrahan and Jose Veras.

-- The Bucs sent RHP Daniel McCutchen to Indy and assigned RHPs Tyler Yates, Sean Gallagher, IF Josh Fields and C Wyatt Toregas to minor league camp. Everybody in a battle for a bench spot - Ciriaco, Rodriguez, Wimbley, Pearce, Bowker, Marte - is in the lineup today, and many out of their normal position.

-- Joe Beimel isn't on a recovery schedule to begin the season, nor is J-Mac, so we'll see where that leads.

Ohlie Rocked Again, Bucs Fall 11-7

Ross Ohlendorf worked 4-2/3 innings, gave up nine hits and five earned runs, walked two and was whacked for three home runs; his spring ERA is an ugly 10.05.

Lyle Overbay and Neil Walker hit back-to-back home runs in the first to give Ohlie a quick 3-0 lead against Baltimore; it would prove way short of the support he needed this night.

Ohlendorf couldn't make it through the fifth before the O's had pounded their way to a 6-3 cushion. Another Walker blast made it 6-4 (maybe they should keep him at clean-up, where he hit for the first time this spring), but the O's kept tagging Bucco pitching.

Evan Meek threw 1-1/3 frames, giving up two unearned runs (Overbay misplayed a ball and Pedro had a bad throw) on three hits. Garrett Olson threw one inning and surrendered three runs on three hits. He walked two and struck out one. Only Chris Leroux, with a clean eighth, escaped unscathed.

Pedro singled in an eighth inning run and Josh Rodriguez drilled a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to make the final tally 11-7, bad guys.

Let's hope the spring is just playtime and that the rotation can get it together before April. Otherwise, another long year is in store for the PNC faithful.

The Bucs visit Tampa Bay this afternoon. Charlie Morton takes the hill against Jeff Niemann.

-- Chris Snyder was back behind the dish; if he and Dewey can stay in one piece for the next week-and-a-half, the Bucs will probably head north with just two catchers.

-- Chris Jakubauskas is with the O's now and threw 1-2/3 perfect frames against his old teammates, striking out three. Jaku hasn't given up a run this spring.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And Your 2011 Rotation *Ta Da*

Clint Hurdle announced that Kevin Correia will start Opening Day, followed by Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

Correia was a bit of a surprise to start over Maholm, but it does put PM in position to start the home opener on April 7th against the Rockies. The only alteration may be a Jeff Karstens/Brian Burres spot start in J-Mac's spot if he's not ready to roll by the first week of April.

Get Yer Lineup Here...

Pittsburgh at Baltimore 7:05 PM, Ohlie vs. Jake Arrieta.

Lineup: Andrew McCutchen CF, Jose Tabata LF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Chris Snyder C and Ross Ohlendorf P.

Pitchers: Ross Ohlendorf, Evan Meek, Garrett Olson and Chris Leroux.

Good to see Snyder and Jones back in the saddle; the season is just around the corner.

-- Hey, Andrew McCutchen has been discovered by another writer. David Schoenfield of ESPN MLB's "Sweet Spot" blog joins the McCutch admiration society.

-- The Pirates are worth $304M, the lowest among the 30 MLB clubs according to Forbes magazine. They also claim the team made a $25M profit, which would be nice but looks kinda generous compared to past profit projections.

-- John Raynor, last year's Pirate Rule 5 pick, requested and received his release from the Marlins according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Burres Bopped, Bucs Dropped 10-6

Brian Burres' sparkling spring came to a sudden end today as he was roughed up for six runs on ten hits in five innings of toil today and the Pirates went down 10-6 to the 'Stros.

Another run scored on a Dewey passed ball (he also gave up two stolen bases and was picked off by the Houston catcher Humberto Quintero twice), and Tyler Yates put a cap on the day by giving up a three spot in the ninth on four hits.

The Pirates did hit the ball; McCutch and Pedro went deep; Burres, Jose Tabata and Lyle Overbay also added RBI. The Pirates banged out 14 hits but stranded fourteen runners.

Ohlie takes on Jake Arrieta tomorrow night at 7:05 as Pittsburgh visits Baltimore.

-- James McDonald is expected to miss one regular season start before rejoining the team. Jose Ascanio threw BP and Chris Snyder is about ready to resume action.

-- If the Bucs expect to keep Josh Rodriguez via a deal, they might have to think twice. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes "The Indians expect to get infielder Josh Rodriguez, the first pick in December's Rule 5 draft, back from the Pirates before the end of camp. Rodriguez played shortstop and second base for Class AAA Columbus last year and the Indians are in dire need of upper level shortstops."

-- Ollie Perez landed on his feet after being released by the Mets; the Nats claimed him. They're also said to be looking to unload another ex-Buc, Nyjer Morgan. They come, they go...

Today's Players

Pittsburgh vs. Houston, 1:05 PM at McKechnie Field.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Niel Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Matt Diaz RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Ryan Doumit C, Ronnie Cedeno SS and Brian Burres P.

Pitching: Brian Burres, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Mike Crotta and Tyler Yates.

JA Happ will go for the Astros.

The Pirates visit the O's for a rare night game tomorrow. Ross Ohlendorf will take on Jake Arrieta.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Jot Or Two

-- The Pirates released 28 year old RHP Fernando Nieve. He was was 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in 7-1/3 camp innings with 8 K's and 2 walks.

--- MLB Network will broadcast its “30 Clubs in 30 Days” Pirates edition at 11 PM tonight and at 9 AM and 11 AM Wednesday morning.

-- Age has caught up to our ol' bud Jack Splat. The Mariner's gave the SS job to Brendan Ryan; Wilson will still start, but as Seattle's second sacker.

Mayo's Top Ten Prospects

Jonathan Mayo of just put out his Top Ten Prospects list for Pittsburgh. It's the usual suspects, except that he gives Jeff Locke a little more love than most. He also adds an estimated big league arrival date, a nice touch. His ratings:

-1. RHP Jameson Taillon (ETA - 2013)
-2. RHP Stetson Allie (ETA - 2014)
-3. C Tony Sanchez (ETA - 2012)
-4. LHP Rudy Owens (ETA - 2011)
-5. RHP Bryan Morris (ETA - 2011)
-6. RHP Luis Heredia (ETA - 2014)
-7. LHP Jeff Locke (ETA - 2012)
-8. OF Starling Marte (ETA - 2013)
-9. RHP Zack Von Rosenberg (ETA - 2014)
10. RHP Colton Cain (ETA - 2014)

The Pitching Picture Clears Up A Bit

OK, the fifth starter is almost certainly going to be Charlie Morton. The beat guys ferreted out that Scott Olsen was going to start the year on the DL (although his only current injury, as far as we know, has been to his pride) and Bad Brad Lincoln, with his juicy pair of remaining options and bruised arm, will probably be left on the outside, looking in from Indy.

Give Morton credit; spring training isn't much of a barometer, but he did excise last year's March ghosts by going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in fourteen frames. He whipped the competition fair and square.

And Lincoln reestablished himself as a mid-rotation prospect; he's 1-0 in 10-2/3 frames with a 3.38 ERA. Not much of a sample size for either guy, but both can go into the season feeling good about their camp performance.

The bullpen still has a lot of moving parts; not all that many candidates have dropped out. Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek had their names written in stone before camp started at the back end, and two of the favorites, Chris Resop (1.93 ERA, 11 Ks in 9-1/3 innings) and Jose Veras (1.80 ERA, 8 Ks in 10 innings) look like they're in.

That leaves three spots open.

Joe Biemel was assumed to be a lock as the lefty, but his elbow has been a problem, and he just got a cortisone shot yesterday, so his status is...well, who knows? Scott Olson was a possible southpaw reliever, but he's headed to the DL. Both were ripped in the very limited work they saw, and it's hard to say if it was injuries or ability that caused their bleak performances.

The other lefties are young Garrett Olson, claimed on waivers but with some MLB experience, and Brian Burres, who has yet to give up an earned run.

Old dependable Jeff Karstens, who has been there and done that, has had a solid spring, and so has Sean Gallagher, although he's going to Indy to get stretched out as a starter. Mike Crotta has come out of nowhere to get on the radar, though he's likely AAA fodder too.

Chris Leroux has probably dropped out of the race; in 7-2/3 frames, he has a 4.70 ERA and only one whiff. Tyler Yates has been a BP pitcher in camp, so you can cross him off the list, too; he's Indy-bound.

There are still several configurations available for Hurdle and the brass, and the main wildcards will be Beimel and Burres (although Jose Ascanio could be another; he's out of options and will throw BP today, but we're still expecting him to hit the DL).

Our shot in the dark would be for Karstens, Beimel and Olson to go north if St. Mary's Joe is good to go; the Bucs still see Burres as an insurance starter. But if Beimel is hors d' combat, Burres should slide into his spot. The FO may say that they'll go with seven righties in the pen, but we suspect that Hurdle will hold out for two lefties.

That will leave Indy with a rotation of Lincoln, Sean Gallagher, Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens and Burres/Olsen/Cesar Valdez, with Justin Wilson and Jeff Locke looking to make a move up. Who ever thought there would be a crowd of Pirate starting pitchers?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slumber Company

Paul Maholm turned in one of his typical bend-but-don't-break starts - six innings, two runs, nine hits, two walks and five K's - but to no avail as the Bucco bats were again in the deep freeze, generating just six hits in a 4-1 loss to the Twins.

The Pirates only went down on strikes twice, but grounded out 15 times, and bounced into two DPs.

Pittsburgh scored first when the sizzling Jason Jaramillo brought home Matt Diaz in the second. The lead didn't last long; Joe Mauer singled in the tying tally in the third. Maholm was in trouble in the fifth, but got away with just one run coming home on a Delmon Young 6-4-3 twin killing. It got him out of a pickle, but ended up driving home the eventual winning run.

That's how it stayed until the top of the ninth. Jose Veras and Garrett Olson kept the Twins quiet in the two earlier frames, but Anthony Claggett gave up a pair on two hits and a walk. It wasn't as bad an outing as it seems. One hit was a fly that dropped between two outfielders, and a run scored on Pedro Ciriaco's two-out boot at short.

The Pirate's have their second and last off-day of camp tomorrow. Houston will come to McKechnie Field Wednesday for a 1:05 PM tilt. Brian Burres will start for the Pirates against J.A. Happ.

-- The Pirates were counting on getting Rule 5 RHP Nathan Adcock back from the Royals. They still might, but he's deep into camp and has a good shot at sticking, according to Tim Dierkes of MLB Rumors.

Today's Scorecard & Notes

The Pirates take on the Twins at McKechnie Field at 1:05 PM. Paul Maholm will take on Minnesota's Brian Duensing.

Lineup: Andrew McCutchen CF, Niel Walker 2B, Steve Pearce LF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Matt Diaz RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Josh Rodriguez SS, Jason Jaramillo C and Paul Maholm P.

Pitching: Paul Maholm, Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Sean Gallagher.

-- Garrett Jones has missed the past few days; the FSN guys said he bruised a shoulder, other reports claimed that he had a stiff neck. Either way, he took several at-bats in the minor league game yesterday and should be back in the saddle soon.

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette reported that Neal Huntington told him: "Scott Olsen is out of the competition for a starting spot within the Pirates' rotation, and the lefty may even be out of the bullpen competition for the time being."

-- IF Garrett Atkins has been unconditionally released by the Pirates. He had an opt-out clause in his minor league contract if he didn't make the roster, so it was just a question of when. Atkins hit .129 this spring, going 4-for-31.

-- LHP Justin Thomas and RHP Fernando Nieve were assigned to minor league camp and a probable ticket to Indy.

Camp is beginning to take on a little focus this week.

-- Ollie Perez was released by the Mets today; they still owe him $12M for the 2011 season. Holy Matty Morris!


-- Lyle Overbay (John Perrotto, Beaver County Times)

-- Lyle Overbay (John Lembo,

-- Garrett Olson (Rob Biertempfel, Tribune-Review)

-- Garret Atkins (Jen Langosch,

-- Garrett Atkins (Rob Biertempfel, Tribune-Review)

-- Jameson Taillon (Rob Biertempfel, Tribune-Review)

-- Luis Heredia (Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bucs Outpitch 'Stros 3-1

Hey, maybe Charlie Morton learned his lesson last spring...or maybe Joe Kerrigan's not around to confuse him anymore.

Whatever the reason, Morton has pitched pretty solidly this spring. He went six innings today, giving up four hits, no runs, and K'ing 5 as Pittsburgh won 3-1 over Houston, lowering his spring ERA to 1.29. And believe us, that's the kinda pitching the Pirates are gonna need.

All the runs needed were provided in the second inning when Ronny Cedeno's second spring blast brought home Josh Fields, who had doubled. The Bucs tacked on another in the third on a Dewey three-bagger that chased home Andy Marte.

Evan Meek and Chris Leroux up goose eggs until the ninth, when Mike Crotta gave up his first run of the year (it was unearned, thank you, Benji Gonzalez) while closing out the win.

Paul Maholm is slated to pitch the first six innings Monday against the Twins.

-- Minor league SS Benji Gonzalez came into the game today in the seventh inning and made four fielding errors and struck out. Quite the debut, hey?

-- Jameson Taillon made his spring debut today in minor league camp. He pitched two innings against the New York Yankees’ Class A team and gave up one run on three hits; he struck out two.

-- James McDonald had a bullpen session today; if he follows the usual Pirate regimen, he should be ready to go in about a week.

-- Brad Lincoln didn't throw today, his scheduled side-session time. With Morton on fire and Lincoln's arm wrapped in an ace bandage, it looks more and more like Bad Brad, despite a good spring showing, is destined to start the year at Indy.

The Lineup

The Pirates visit the Astros for a 1:05 game. Charlie Morton starts against Ryan Rowland-Smith.

Lineup: Jose Tabata CF, Steve Pearce 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Matt Diaz RF, Andy Marte 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Josh Fields LF, Ronny Cedeno SS and Charlie Morton P.

Ya know there are a lot of big boys in the lineup when Steve Pearce is hitting out of the two hole.

Pitchers: Charlie Morton, Evan Meek, Mike Crotta and Chris Leroux.


-- Clint Hurdle said Paul Maholm or Kevin Correia will start Opening Day against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 1st. With J-Mac on ice and Ohlie getting pummeled, his options are kinda limited at this point.

McDonald still isn't throwing off a mound, and he's running out of time to be stretched out for the start of the season.

-- Joe Beimel is having pain in his throwing arm again; this time it's a different spot. That doesn't bode well with the season beginning in less than two weeks. Garrett Olsen will get a long look (he's supposed to be game ready by Monday), and Brian Burres has to considered in the mix, especially if Beimel's injury is more than just tightness and Scott Olsen doesn't shape up.

-- Chris Snyder is still not ready to play. If he's not back in action by next weekend, his balky back could well influence the Pirate decision whether to carry a third catcher, at least for the short term.

-- Ollie Perez had another rough outing for the Mets; the word is that they're deciding his future tonight, and he may be released Sunday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bucs Bop Bosox 7-5

The Pirates handed Kevin Correia a 5-0 lead, and it held up as Pittsburgh broke a four game losing streak to take a 7-5 victory from Boston.

Correia went five innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits with a walk and four K's.

The Bucs scored five times in the bottom of the fourth. Neil Walker reached on an error and Andrew McCutchen walked. Sizzling Lyle Overbay (.405 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI) drove them in with a double to go up, 2-0. Correia singled with the bases loaded, and a throwing error by Red Sox catcher Jason Saltalamacchia sent the Pirates off to the races and a 5-0 lead.

The Red Sox made it 5-3 their next at bat thanks to a Walker misthrow and a pair of sac flies.

Joel Hanrahan threw a strong inning, giving up a hit and striking out a pair, but Boston pared the lead to 5-4 off Justin Thomas, who yielded a hit and walked a pair of batters in his frame of work.

The hot John Bowker (.300 BA, 3 HR, 7 RBI) gave the Bucs some breathing room with a two-run shot to up the score to 7-5, and Fernando Nieve got through the last two innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, whiffing two.

The Pirates will meet the Astros at Kissimmee tomorrow. Charlie Morton gets the start against Ryan Rowland-Smith. It's a 1:05 PM start.

-- It lasted just a week. A record crowd of 6,644 set a new McKechnie Field mark for today’s game, surpassing the March 13th standard set against the Yankees; guess there are a lotta Bosox fans with nothing to do in Florida.

Saturday Lineup & Notes

Kevin Correia starts against Boston's Josh Beckett at 1:05 PM; the game will be shown on FSN Sports.

Lineups: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Matt Diaz RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Dusty Brown C and Kevin Correia P.

Pitchers: Kevin Correia, Joel Hanrahan, Joe Beimel, Fernando Nieve and Justin Thomas.

-- Steve Pearce is expected to enter today's game as a sub for Pedro and play the hot corner.

-- Brad Lincoln's bruised arm is wrapped; he may miss his next start, although that hasn't been determined yet.

-- Jose Ascanio will throw BP today according to Jen Langosch of; if all goes well, he may be able to pitch for real next week, further complicating the Pirates' pitching decisions, as he's out of options.

-- Hard Ball Talk has a vid preview of the NL Central by Tiffany Simons and Craig Calcaterra. They pick the Cubs to win it, and Calcaterra believes the Bucs at best will be a 70 win team, with the potential to lose 100 games again. He says that there's "just not enough there."

-- Jim Callis of Baseball America says if the Pirates take 3B Anthony Rendon or RHP Gerrit Cole in the 2011 draft, they would immediately become Pittsburgh's top prospect over Jameson Taillon. And BA ranked Taillon as the #8 prospect in baseball earlier this year.

He believes there's not much to separate them, writing that "Rendon and Cole are 1 and 1A." Callis feels that Rendon would "compare favorably to No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez, who isn't going to stick at the hot corner for long."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bucs Claim Another Olson

The Pirates today claimed LHP Garrett Olson off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.

Olson, 27, pitched in five spring games for Seattle with a 5.40 ERA. He appeared in 35 games for the Mariners last season, striking out 31 and walking 15 in 37-2/3 innings of work, with a save and 4.54 ERA. In his career, he's appeared 99 times (44 starts) and has a 6.20 ERA.

He exclusively started his first two seasons as an Oriole; the Mariners used him as a spot starter in 2009 and strictly from the bullpen last year.

Olson gives up hits - his WHIP is 1.661 - and long balls, 1.5/9 innings. He's also a bit of a wild child, issuing 4.4 walks/9 innings. Beside taking over the league lead in Garretts, the Bucs are hoping that Olson can light a fire under lefties Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel, who have been BP pitchers in limited action so far this spring.

To make room for Olson on the 40-man roster, the Pirates placed right-handed pitcher Kevin Hart on the 60-day DL.

It Takes Three...

Three outs, that is, to end an inning. And the Bucs had trouble nailing that third out in losing 3-2 to the Phillies this afternoon.

Tuffy Gosewisch rolled a single past the infield, scoring two runs with two outs in the ninth off Chris Leroux to win it. Ben Francisco and Pete Orr started the inning with back-to-back bunt singles against an all minor league infield (Jeremy Farrell - Jordy Mercer - Josh Harrison - Josh Fields) to prime Gosewisch's game-winning bleeder.

To add injury to insult, Brad Lincoln was yanked after taking a shot off the right arm from the bat of Jimmy Rollins. He got the out, and then exited with what appeared to be nothing more than a deep bruise. The team will find out tomorrow if it's anything more serious.

Lincoln worked 2-2/3 innings and allowed one run on one hit and a costly free pass. A leadoff walk followed by a bunt and Rollin's ball move Michael Martinez to third, and he scored with two outs when Shane Victorino greeted cold reliever Chris Resop with a double.

The Pirates scored two runs in the third off Roy Oswalt when Corey Wimberly grounded home a run and John Bowker followed with an RBI double, chasing home Josh Rodriguez and Lincoln. Jose Veras and Mike Crotta tossed three scoreless frames to hold the Bucco lead into the ninth.

Steve Pearce threw out Jimmy Rollins trying to score from right field; John Bowker was also nailed at home.

The Pirates face the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 PM tomorrow at McKechnie Field in a game televised live by FSN Pittsburgh. Kevin Correia will start against Josh Beckett.

The Lineup Card

Pirates @ Philadelphia, 1:05 PM, Brad Lincoln vs Roy Halladay:

Lineup: Corey Wimberly CF, John Bowker LF, Steve Pearce RF, Ryan Doumit C, Garrett Atkins 3B, Andy Marte 1B, Josh Rodriguez 2B, Pedro Ciriaco SS and Brad Lincoln P.

Pitching: Brad Lincoln is penciled in to pitch the first four innings, followed by Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Mike Crotta and Chris Leroux.

The game today can be heard on 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh and on the Pirates Radio Network.

-- Ryan Doumit is playing his first Grapefruit League game in ten days; fortunately his oblique strain wasn't severe.

-- It's "show-me" day; all of today's players except for Doumit are in battles to head north after camp.

-- Scott Olsen's ineffectiveness and lack of innings, along with Brad Lincoln's remaining option, make Charlie Morton the betting favorite for the fifth rotation spot.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baltimore (No, Not The Ravens) Blisters Bucs 13-3

Ross Ohlendorf, Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel served up BP to the Orioles today as Baltimore won going away, 13-3.

For Olsen and Beimel, it's disappointing but not unexpected; both were making just their second spring appearance after injuries. But for Ohlie, it was another in a spring-long series of beat-downs. He gave up all six runs in the third inning, and all after two were away. His ERA is now north of ten with two weeks and two or three more starts remaining in camp.

Ohlendorf pitched three innings today and gave up eight hits and a home run while whiffing a pair. Olsen went 1-1/3 innings, gave a homer, three runs, three hits and walked three with a K. Beimel pitched a frame, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk with a whiff. Sean Gallagher gave up the other run in the ninth on two hits.

On the plus side, Daniel McCutchen threw two innings, giving up just a walk, and minor-league reliever Mike Dubee worked 2/3 innings scorelessly, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Still, for a team that needs some pitching to hang around, the results were worrisome. The Bucs allowed 20 hits and walked five; the staff has a lot of tightening up to do and twelve spring games left to do it. The four mainstays of the rotation have the following ERAs - J-Mac (4.05), Paul Maholm (5.14), Kevin Correia (7.43) and Ohlie (10.24). We know that spring stats are poor barometers of the season, but geez...

The guys looking for that final spot have been much sharper. Their ERAs: Brian Burres (0.00), Charlie Morton (2.25), Jeff Karstens (2.57) and Friday's starter, Brad Lincoln (3.38). In the intra-squad game today, both Burres and Karstens threw goose eggs. Maybe it's just a matter of motivation.

(The pick-up game ended up 3-0; Tyler Yates gave up all three runs on five hits in two innings of work. Pedro Ciriaco started in CF and ran down two fly balls. Steve Pearce doubled twice and drove in a run. Pearce started at third base and gloved two hits cleanly. Minor league OF'er Miles Durham was taken out of the game in the ninth after crashing into the wall.)

The Bucco batters had eight hits, drew six walks and were gifted with three O errors, but stranded a dozen runners. Pedro led the parade with a pair of knocks, including the only extra-base hit for Pittsburgh, a seventh inning double.

The Bucs travel to Clearwater tomorrow to face the Phillies in a 1:05 PM game. Brad Lincoln will start against Roy Oswalt.

-- Ryan Doumit is expected to be in tomorrow's lineup after missing time with an oblique strain. He got some swings in today in a minor-league game.

The Lineup...

The Pirates take on the Baltimore O's at McKechnie Field at 1:05 PM. Ross Ohlendorf starts against Chris Tillman.

The Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Matt Diaz RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Jason Jaramillo C and Ross Ohlendorf P.

The Pitchers: Ross Ohlendorf, Joe Beimel, Scott Olsen, Daniel McCutchen and Sean Gallagher.

-- The Bucs have an intrasquad game on slate today; Brian Burres and Jeff Karstens will start. Pedro Ciriaco will play center during the in-camp match and Steve Pearce will man the hot corner as they learn to master new positions.

-- The Pirate Preview on MLB Network's "30 Clubs in 30 Days" will be Tuesday night, March 22nd, at 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jays Bop Bucs 5-3

Paul Maholm had one rough inning, and it was the difference as the Toronto Blue Jays took a 5-3 victory from Pittsburgh this afternoon.

Maholm suffered the loss. He threw five innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs, three of coming in the fourth inning. The big blow was David Cooper's two-run blast. Edwin Encarnacion added a homer off Maholm. He also walked two and K'ed three while throwing 70 pitches.

Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop and Mike Crotta threw zeroes, while Jose Veras gave up a run on two hits and a suicide squeeze.

The Pirates got a solo shot from Neil Walker and 2 RBI from Garrett Jones. The Bucs banged out 11 hits, two each by Jose Tabata, McCutch and Ronny Cedeno, but three DP's and a caught stealing kept them from mounting a sustained attack against Toronto.

Ross Ohlendorf will face Chris Tillman as the Bucs host Baltimore tomorrow at 1:05 PM. Joe Beimel and Scott Olsen are also slated to throw.

-- We reported that Chris Snyder was close to being ready to resume baseball activities, but he had to sit out today with a recurrence of back pain, so it's back to "day-to-day."

SI Fantasizes About Pedro & McCutch

-- Sports Illustrated ran a piece about 2011's Fantasy Baseball selections; they were high on Pedro Alvarez, saying "He was labeled the top hitter of his draft class and he showed plenty of power in his first two-thirds of a season. His first full season could produce 25-plus homers and 100 RBI."

-- In another fantasy-related piece by SI, Eric Mack picked Andrew McCutchen as one of the NL Central's breakout players. He wrote "This is a real talented 24-year old just scratching the surface."

Today's Lineup and Notes

The Pirates take on the Blue Jays at 1:05 PM at McKechnie Field. Paul Maholm starts against highly touted rookie Kyle Drabek, Doug's son.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Garrett Jones RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Dusty Brown C and Paul Maholm P.

Pitching: Paul Maholm, Joe Beimel, Daniel McCutchen and Sean Gallagher.

The lineup is a catcher away from being the likely opening day scorecard.

-- Woody Huyke will manage the Pirates this afternoon as Clint Hurdle will work and observe at minor league camp. Huyke, 73, is a long-time Bucco GCL coach and manager. Letting him take the reins is just another classy move on Hurdle's part, one of many small signs of professionalism he's shown during camp.

-- Ryan Doumit was seen catching in full equipment and took part in BP, a promising sign that his oblique strain isn't a major injury, and expects to get some at-bats in the minor league game tomorrow. Chris Snyder is still AWOL from meaningful camp activity with a bum back, but is expected to return for the last week or ten days of training.

-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has a post on mid-season trade candidates. His take on Pittsburgh: "The Pirates figure to be open to offers on many of their veterans - Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, and Lyle Overbay for example. I can also envision Neal Huntington trying to extract a significant return for Joel Hanrahan."

-- Matt Diaz spent yesterday's open date helping to build a playground on the poor side of Winter Haven. Coming out to give a hand were Charlie Morton, Justin Thomas, Brian Burres, Jeff Karstens, hitting coach Gregg Ritchie and Indy manager Dean Treanor, along with the Parrot. The Pirates may not win many fans with their on-field activity, but sure should win a few for their off field work.

Bucs and Blasts and Bands, Oh My!

The Pirates announced their Skyblast and Fan Jam dates and performers for 2011. The schedule:

-- Saturday, June 11th vs. NY Mets (Huey Lewis and the News - Skyblast)

-- Saturday, July 9th vs. Chicago Cubs (.38 Special - Skyblast)

-- Saturday, August 6th vs. San Diego Padres (Train - Skyblast)

-- Saturday, September 24th vs. Cincy Reds (Steve Miller Band - Fan Jam)

Guess What? More Profiles!

-- Jose Tabata (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Jose Tabata (John Lembo,

-- Charlie Morton (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Josh Rodriguez (Karen Price, Tribune-Review)

-- Danny Moskos (Rob Biertempfel, Tribune-Review)

-- Danny Moskos (Jen Langosch,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paul Maholm's Value

Fangraph's Joe Pawlikowsk posted "Paul Maholm's Value To the Pirates" yesterday. He writes:

"The concern is not with his 2011 salary, but rather his 2012 option, which comes in at $9.75 million. That is right around his projected market value. Maholm...might not be the type of player on whom the Pirates should spend those market value dollars.

Trading Maholm at the deadline might be the best move for the long term. That might hurt in the short term, but in the long term it allows them to add a player who might be a part of the next Pirates team that finishes above .500 and, perhaps, makes the playoffs."

Snell Bows Out

BJ Rains of Fox Sports Midwest tweeted that "Pitcher Ian Snell has retired....Cardinals sent him to minor league camp this morning and he decided to call it a career."

Snell, 29, had signed a minor league contract with St. Louis in January. For all his promise, he ended up 38-53 with 4.80 ERA in his seven big league seasons. Snell struck out 639 in 803-1/3 innings; he also walked 372 batters in 152 games (136 starts).

The moral is to enjoy your ride; ya' never knows how long it'll last. Just ask Ollie Perez, who may be joining Ian shortly in the talented-but-d'oh jobless line.

Camp Battles Come In Focus

The Pirates wanted to fill in around the edges this year; their camp battles are for the bench, bridge relievers, and a fifth starter. We're guessing that within ten days, the Bucs will be close to making their final cuts. Today we'll look at how the bench competition is shaping up to date.

Josh Rodriguez has done his part as a Rule 5 player in camp, hitting the ball some (.267 BA) and showing patience and a good eye (.421 OBP).

But Pedro Ciriaco has flashed all the tools - his fielding has been sharp, his arm is the talk of camp, he's shown that he can play third along with the middle infield spots, he's run well, and most importantly, he's making contact (.370 BA with just 3 whiffs, though without a walk yet, which is a problem). Ciriaco is also going to get an outfield shot, and if successful in the pasture, that move would both improve his chances of a roster spot and clear a pure batter's slot for the bench.

Corey Wimberly is a lightning bolt in spikes, his bat has come alive this week, and he can back up McCutch and Jose Tabata as a speed OF'er. But his problem is that he hasn't flashed much leather playing the middle, and that's key; one of these three guys has to be able to give Ronny Cedeno and Neil Walker a blow while giving the pitching staff a fighting chance in the field.

We're not ready to declare Ciriaco the winner yet. The fact that he has an option remaining and Rodriguez has to be returned if he doesn't make the big team means that not only does Pedro have to win the competition, but convincingly. But as of now, he's ahead of the pack.

From what we've seen so far, John Bowker looks like he's got the edge for the second bench slot. He's shown some power and would provide a lefty off the bench when Garrett Jones is playing. Also, he's out of options.

But he hasn't separated himself that much from Steve Pearce and Andy Marte to count on going north yet. Pearce has a little more versatility since he's added a third baseman's mitt to his bag and is easily the best fielder of the corner hopefuls. His stick has been so-so (.259 BA, .300 OBP) but he's been banging out two-baggers (4). Andy Marte has helped himself by smacking the ball at a .421 clip and is currently tied with Pedro Alvarez for the team lead in doubles (5) with half the at-bats.

Garrett Atkins has cooled off after a hot start (.154 BA, .214 OBP) but his connections to Hurdle and veteran presence may earn him a longer look. Josh Fields, the pre-season favorite to earn a spot, has been disappointing so far in both the field and plate. The iron glovework isn't very surprising, but the .182 BA with no extra base hits is. His stick is his meal ticket, and so far his lumber hasn't played out in camp.

Logically, two out the trio of Bowker-Pearce-Marte should make the team, and you can include Rodriguez in the mix. But with Ryan Doumit out with an oblique strain and Chris Snyder again having back issues, the Bucs' hand may be forced to carry an extra catcher, at least early in the year.

Jason Jaramillo and Dusty Brown, to their credit, have both come to camp ready to dispel their good glove, weak bat reps. JJ is hitting .533 and Brown .368 in limited opportunities; we expect to see them both get a lot of work in the coming few days.

None of the above players have option problems except for Rodriguez; Pearce and Jaramillo each have one left, and the others are in camp on minor-league deals.

The next week-to-ten-days will help cull the herd. But the results may be out of the players' hands. The catching situation and options issue may become determining factors.

But give the FO some credit this year; they've finally divorced themselves from the over-the-hill vet philosophy and opened a couple of spots, albeit on the bench, for guys climbing the hill instead of tumbling down it.

The only weakness we see so far is that with Alex Presley and Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indy while Wimberly seemingly is on his way to join them, there's no experienced backup for McCutch and Tabata. If they play 150 games apiece, no problem; otherwise, it could be a hole, depending on whether Ciriaco sticks and how fast a learner he is. But a step at a time...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baltimore Blasts Bucs 8-2

Kevin Correia had another very meh start, going five frames and giving up four runs on seven hits with a K, turning an early 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit before he claimed the hot water.

Evan Meek held the line during his inning, but Joe Beimel and Scott Olsen pitched the last two innings, and about all they did was start to scrape the rust off their arms, both returning from lengthy layoffs.

Beimel was tagged for three runs on four hits and a very costly error by Josh Fields (only one run was earned) in an inning of work. Olsen came next and gave up a singleton in the eighth, a homer by Nick Green with two away followed by a triple that he stranded.

The Bucs bats continued to connect, as they amassed 14 hits. Four guys - Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Ciriaco, Steve Pearce (both doubles) and Jason Jaramillo - had a pair of knocks apiece.

But Pittsburgh was 4-13 RISP, had a runner caught stealing, another gunned at the plate, and bounced into 4 DPs. Tough to win games like that!

The Pirates are off tomorrow. They'll play the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 PM on Wednesday at Bradenton's McKechnie Field.

Lineup Card & More Cuts

Pirates vs. Orioles 1:05 PM at Sarasota (Ed Smith Stadium). Kevin Correia and Jake Arrieta are the scheduled starters.

Lineup: Pedro Ciriaco 2B, John Bowker 1B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Matt Diaz LF, Steve Pearce RF, Josh Rodriguez SS, Jason Jaramillo C and Kevin Correia P.

Pitchers: Kevin Correia (five innings), Evan Meek, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel and Mike Crotta (one inning each).

-- The Pirates cut ten players today, none whom were expected to challenge for a roster spot out of camp. Assigned to minor league camp: Chase d'Arnaud, Brian Friday, Andrew Lambo; sent to Indy: Gorkys Hernandez, Daniel Moskos, Alex Presley, Tony Watson; sent to Altoona: Ramon Aguero, Jeff Locke, Aaron Thompson. EDIT - Lambo and d'Arnaud were assigned to Indy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Buc Bats Boom

The way Red Sox starter Josh Beckett was mowing down the Bucs, it looked like another long day for the bats.

He tossed four strong frames; John Bowker's second-inning homer was just one of two hits garnered by the Pirates. Brad Lincoln matched goose eggs with him for the first two innings, but Mike Cameron's third-inning double brought home a pair.

A homer by Lars Anderson off Jeff Karstens in the fourth gave Boston a 3-1 lead.

But Beckett went a bridge too far in the fifth. Ronny Cedeno smacked a leadoff homer, and Beckett left the game with the bases juiced. A Neil Walker RBI single, two run double by Pedro and a two run single by Lyle Overbay put Pittsburgh up 7-3.

Darnell McDonald's blast in the sixth off Joel Hanrahan cut into the lead, but the score stayed the same until the eighth, when the Pirates put up a final two-spot. Gorkys Hernandez and Andrew Lambo did the damage with RBI singles. Chris Resop and Chris Leroux shut down Beantown over the final three frames as the Bucs cruised to a 9-4 win.

Pittsburgh had twelve hits, six for extra bases, and went a solid 6-for-15 RISP.

Pittsburgh will visit the Orioles Monday; the starters are scheduled to be Kevin Correia and Jake Arrieta.

-- Pedro Ciriaco got his first spring shot at the hot corner today, and made a couple of dandy plays while showing off a quite impressive arm. The question now is can he hit well enough...?

-- Today's attendance of 6,602 is the largest in the 42-year-history of McKechnie Field.

-- Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel will make their spring debuts Monday after recovering from nagging injuries.

-- Tough year so far for the Zachster. Duke will probably miss 6-8 weeks with broken left hand according to Arizona's GM.

Today's Scorecard

Pirates vs. Boston, 1:05 PM @ McKechnie Field.

Lineup: Jose Tabata CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones RF, Lyle Overbay 1B, John Bowker LF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Dusty Brown C and Brad Lincoln P.

Pitching: Brad Lincoln, Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop and Chris Leroux.

Brad Lincoln takes the hill against Josh Beckett. The game will be aired by MLB Network.

More Profiles

-- Andrew McCutchen (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Lyle Overbay (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Neil Walker (Rob Biertempfel, Tribune-Review)

-- Steve Pearce (Alan Dell,

-- Alex Presley (John Lembo,

-- Josh Fields (Evan Drellich,

-- Rudy Owens (Jen Langosch,

-- Ray Searage (Karen Price, Tribune-Review)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bucs Drop A Pair

The Bucs played two today, and dropped 'em both, 11-4 to the Phils and 6-4 to the Jays.

Ross Ohlendorf gave up five hits, several of the soft variety, and four runs in two innings, and was yanked after hitting his pitch count two innings early. But he wasn't alone in having a tough day on the hill. Aaron Thompson was drilled for four more runs in the next two frames, Tony Watson yielded a pair in his frame, and Tyler Yates was touched for a run in 2/3 of an inning.

Jose Veras was the lone standout, going two innings without a run. He surrendered a hit and walk while whiffing three. Lyle Overbay homered, the only bright spot of a dinky five hit attack.

Against the Blue Jays, Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with a home run, double, two runs scored and two RBIs in a losing cause.

Jeff Locke and Sean Gallagher each went two innings giving up a run apiece (Locke's run was thanks to a fly ball that fell between McCutch and Matt Diaz, either of whom could have made the catch).

But the Jays roughed up Daniel McCutchen, who was tapped for a pair of runs in two innings on a two-run Jose Bautista double, followed by the roof falling in on Ramon Aguero, who lasted 2/3 of a frame and surrendered two runs on two hits and three walks. Mike Crotta continued his strong spring showing, going the last 1-1/3 innings without allowing a runner.

The Pirates had two runners caught stealing, Andy Marte was picked off second, and the team hit into three DPs. On the bright side, Andrew Lambo threw out another runner, his third of the spring.

The Pirates host the Bosox tomorrow at 1:05PM. Brad Lincoln will start against Josh Beckett.

-- Corey Wimberly has five hits in his last six at-bats after an 0-for-12 start as he tries to regain some traction in his efforts to win a bench spot.

-- Chris Snyder has a cranky back (and a history of back problems), Ryan Doumit has an oblique strain, which can take quite some time to heal...who knows, maybe Jason Jaramillo and Dusty Brown are fighting for the starting catcher position in Pittsburgh, not Indianapolis.

-- Steve Pearce played third against the Jays.

Bucs Split Up; Today's Notes

The Pirates are playing split-squad games today. They host the Phillies in Bradenton and will send a squad to Dunedin to take on the Jays, both games starting at 1:05 PM. Ross Ohlendorf starts against the Phillies' Vance Worley, and Jeff Locke will open against the Jays' Ricky Romero. The lineups:

Against Philadelphia:

Lineup: Alex Presley CF, Garrett Jones RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Neil Walker 2B, John Bowker LF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Jason Jaramillo C and Ross Ohlendorf P.

Pitchers: Ross Ohlendorf (four innings), Jose Veras (two), Aaron Thompson (two) and Tyler Yates (one).

Against Toronto:

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Josh Rodriguez 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Matt Diaz RF, Andy Marte 3B, Josh Fields 1B, Garrett Atkins DH, Dusty Brown C, Corey Wimberly SS and Jeff Locke P.

Pitchers: Jeff Locke (two innings), Sean Gallagher (three), Daniel McCutchen (two), Ramon Aguero (one) and Mike Crotta (two).


-- McCutch has nerve irritation in his wrist, but it's minor - he's in the lineup today.

-- J-Mac suffers from "discomfort" in his left side; the team is going to sit him down a couple of days and then evaluate his condition. This could be a little more serious; he may miss a start or two in camp, but is expected to be good to go for the season.

-- Chris Snyder was scratched from the lineup with back tightness; he's been out since Wednesday and day-to-day.

-- Ryan Doumit and Kevin Hart are still in recovery mode; Jose Ascanio is throwing and progressing some; and Scott Olsen is close to returning

-- The Bucs sent four pitchers to the minors: RHP Kyle McPherson went to Bradenton, RHP Bryan Morris went to Indy; and LHPs Justin Wilson and Rudy Owens were reassigned to minor league camp.

-- Mt. Lebanon native Chuck Greenburg is out in Texas.

Finally, A Rumor!

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors started it off in his chat Wednesday and it's been brought up in blogs galore since: how's a Kevin Slowey for Joel Hanrahan trade sound? The Twins are looking for a power reliever and the Bucs for a rotation stabilizer; they fit the bill.

Well, it makes some sense; Slowey would firm up the back end of the order, making the Morton/Olsen battle moot, providing insurance if Kevin Correia doesn't come around, and probably could step into the Paul Maholm spot if he gets moved. Hanny is future trade bait anyway, with Evan Meek the closer-in-waiting.

Slowey has a $2.7M contract in place for 2011 and two years of arbitration remaining after that, so team control and affordability (compared to Maholm, anyway) isn't an issue. The Upper St. Clair homey is 39-21 over four seasons in the show, with a 4.41 ERA in 473-1/3 frames and a WHIP of 1.282.

He's a fastball (90MPH) pitcher who gets a lot of fly balls (51%), a double edged sword in Pittsburgh - the OF is a surer bet to catch a ball than the IF, but a lefty-loaded line up makes the Clemente Wall a potential problem area, as his career average of 1.4 HR/9 innings is already on the high side, especially with a home field known as a pitcher's park.

The question is most likely Hanny's perceived value. He was lights-out as a set-up man last year, but not so as a closer. Hanrahan has two years of arbitration left, so there's no urgency to move him this early in the season, one in which the Pirates hope he can establish some value as a closer.

The timing of a Hanrahan deal will be based on him being at optimal value; is it now or do they roll the dice on pumping up his market cred for a deadline trade, when GMs typically overpay?

Hey, at least it's something to talk about while the spring games roll endlessly on. Throw another log on that hot stove.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bucs Eke Out 8-7 Win

There's one thing that you want to leave Florida with in the springtime, and that's your health. Let's hope that Andrew McCutchen and James McDonald's early exits are for minor aches and nothing serious.

The third innings was the charm. McCutch was pulled before heading to the field for the bottom of the third with discomfort in his left wrist. He'll be evaluated later today in Bradenton. McCutchen was having a good day, too, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and run scored.

J-Mac was yanked after giving up a double and a single to start the third. Trainer Brad Henderson went out to the mound, and after a short discussion, McDonald held his side gingerly and left the game. He had discomfort in his left side, and was sent to Pirate City to be further examined.

The Bucs are expected to announce the results of today's poking and probing tomorrow. The pair join Ryan Doumit, who strained his right oblique yesterday.

Oh, the game? The Bucco bats stayed hot today. Pittsburgh opened the scoring when McCutch scored after a two-out Pedro double; it could have been a big inning had Jose Tabata not gotten picked off first base.

They added three more in the second. Josh Fields and Ronny Cedeno singled, J-Mac walked, and Tabata, Garrett Jones and McCutch brought them home one at a time; this inning ended with Jones being thrown out trying to steal home.

The Rays put a couple on the board in the second thanks to a lead-off walk and error, and another in the third after a lead-off double. It was another not-very-strong outing for the now-achy McDonald.

The Pirates tallied three more times in the sixth, all with two away, to go up 7-2. Josh Rodriguez walked, Dusty Brown doubled him home, and John Bowker kissed one good-bye. Meanwhile, Brian Burres dodged the raindrops and threw three goose eggs as he gave up a pair of knocks and walked four Rays.

Not that it bothered Tampa much; they roared back to get four off Danny Moskos and Justin Thomas; the sixth inning only ended because Corey Wimberly, McCutch's replacement in center, threw out the tying run at home.

The Bucs had second and third with one out for Ciriaco in the seventh; he couldn't bring them in. It cost them when Chris Leroux gave up the tying run in the eighth. But a couple of baby Buccos came through in the ninth.

Andrew Lambo came in on a Steve Pearce single, and Fernando Nieve nailed down the save, pitching one-hit ball in the final frame as Pittsburgh took home a sloppy 8-7 win.

The Pirates are still having problems getting acclimated to the go-go game of Clint Hurdle. They lost one runner on a steal attempt, and three were picked off, two at third. Still lots of work to do in that area before the coaches and players find that fine line between aggressiveness and silliness.

But they turned three more DPs, threw out another runner looking for an extra base, banged out 15 hits and were 6-for-14 RISP. It's a process; some things are developing more quickly than others.

Ross Ohlendorf will pitch the first four innings on Saturday in a split-squad game against the Phillies. Jeff Locke will start the other game against the Blue Jays.

-- The Bucs snapped a five-game Tampa Bay win streak with today's victory.

Yer Lineups...

The Pirates vs. Tampa Bay at 1:05 PM in Port Charlotte.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Garrett Jones RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Josh Fields 1B, Pedro Cedeno SS, Dusty Brown C and James McDonald P.

Pitchers: James McDonald (four innings), Brian Burres (two), Danny Moskos, Justin Thomas and Chris Leroux.

James McDonald will start against Wade Davis.

-- Joe Beimel is expected to take the hill again Monday after a bout with a sore elbow.

-- Jason Jaramillo and Dusty Brown will continue their man-a-mano over the weekend to see who backs up Ryan Doumit, who is out with an oblique tweak.

Bumblin' Buccos...

Geez, it was ugly. Paul Maholm gave Pittsburgh four good innings against the O's, giving up a run on four hits and surviving a pair of Pirate errors. But backenders Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek couldn't hold up their end of the deal, and the result was an 11-8 loss to Baltimore.

Hanrahan came on in fifth and was tagged for five straight hits after a leadoff walk. He was throwing nothing but heat; once Hanny mixed in a couple of off-speed offerings, he K'ed the last three batters consecutively. But by that time, it was 5-4, favor of the bad guys.

Meek followed and was welcomed just as rudely. He leaked three runs on two hits, two walks, and a Jason Jaramillo error (he threw through second base; no one covered). He struck out two.

Jeff Karstens gave up three more runs, all unearned, in the seventh, when the Orioles used a hit, walk and a Pedro Ciriaco boot to load the bases and then cashed in with consecutive two-out knocks.

Jaramillo had a pair of RBI; Matt Diaz, Garrett Jones, Corey Wimberly, Dusty Brown and John Bowker also drove in runs. Twelve Pirates recorded hits, including PH Andy Marte, who is now hitting .500. The hitters were also an excellent 7-for-11 RISP.

And all the fielding news wasn't horrendous; the infield turned three more DP's.

The go-go Bucs used their on-the-edge running game to tally a run when Jose Tabata went from first-to-third on an infield ball and scored when the throw got away. On the other side of the coin, Ronny Cedeno was caught stealing and picked off; he's had a rough couple of days adjusting to Hurdle's hurry-up style.

The Pirates and Rays will meet for the fifth time at 1:05PM in Port Charlotte. James McDonald is penciled in to pitch the first four innings while Wade Davis makes the start for Tampa Bay.

-- Ryan Doumit felt some soreness in his right oblique during BP yesterday, and is lasted as "day-to-day." But it may take him awhile to get back, as often the case with oblique injuries, and that will effectively kill any efforts the Bucs are making to move him in the spring.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scorecard/Pre-Game Notes

The Bucs vs. the O's at McKechnie Field; the game starts at 7:05.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Matt Diaz RF, Neil Walker 2B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Garrett Atkins 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Gorkys Hernandez CF, Jason Jaramillo C and Paul Maholm P.

Pitchers: Paul Maholm, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens and Tony Watson.

Paul Maholm takes the mound against Baltimore's Brad Bergesen. The game will be televised on Fox Sports - Pittsburgh.

-- Joe Biemel and Scott Olsen are throwing live BP, which means they're close to coming back. Jose Ascanio is throwing bullpen sessions, which means he still has a ways to go, and Kevin Hart is just throwing long toss; he appears destined for the DL.

-- John Bowker (wrist), Josh Rodriguez (quad) and Brian Friday (hand) are all listed as "day-to-day."

-- The Pirates' Clint Hurdle continues to bat his pitchers during the spring to get them ready for the season; it also gives him a better idea of how the team will perform under NL game conditions. But don't read much into it. With starters going just four frames, it usually means giving up one at-bat; it's just early mental prep for the starter.

-- Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweeted that Eric Krebs retired. The 25 year-old RHP was Pirate property until 2009, when he was the PTBNL in the Delwyn Young deal. He never pitched above the AA level.

In the same tweet, he reported that Jordan Newton, a 24 year-old C at High A Bradenton who was signed from the Indy Leagues last season after Tony Sanchez and Eric Fryer went down, also hung 'em up.

AJ Johnson

A neat little story about former Bucco draft pick AJ Johnson and the fraternity of baseball, by Jen Langosch of A baseball family extends beyond the field and jersey.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pirates Bats Fall Short Again In 4-2 Loss

Well, the shouting was just about over by the time Kevin Correia and Bartolo Colon worked their opening frames; it was 3-2 Yankees. Charlie Morton gave up a solo shot, and that was all she wrote: New York 4, Pittsburgh 2.

Correia had another shaky outing, giving up three runs on six hits in four innings. He struck out four and walked three. Morton did OK again, giving up just the one run in his three frames on two hits and collecting 2 Ks. Jose Veras pitched a scoreless inning, though he was touched for two hits.

The Buc runs came on a Steve Pearce sac fly and a Chris Snyder single in the second. The Pirates collected nine hits, but were 1-for-8 RISP and struck out 16 times (Chris d'Arnaud whiffed three times; four other Bucs went down on strikes twice.) Andrew McCutchen and Matt Diaz had two hits each.

Josh Fields and Matt Diaz stole bases; McCutch got caught. Andrew Lambo picked up his second outfield assist of the spring, gunning a runner at third.

Pittsburgh will host the Baltimore Orioles at 7:05 PM tomorrow in the spring's only night game at McKechnie Field. The game will be aired on FSN. Paul Maholm is scheduled to throw four frames, with Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Jeff Karstens and Tony Watson also penciled in to throw an inning.

Turn the Page...

-- RHP Brendan Donnelly, released at the deadline last year by the Bucs, has retired reports He had a 5.58 ERA for the Pirates. For his career, Donnelly compiled a 32-10 record, 3.22 ERA with 369 strikeouts in 385-1/3 innings.

-- Former West Virginia QB Pat White retired from baseball, according to ESPN. He signed a minor-league contract with KC last year after a stint with the Miami Dolphins. He had been drafted twice, by the Yankees and Angels, but stuck with football.

-- Bad start for the NL Central. The Cards have lost Adam Wainwright, the Astros Jason Castro, and the Brewers now have Zack Grienke on ice with cracked ribs and he'll likely miss the start of the season.

Tonight's Scorecards

The Bucco lineup against the Bronx Bombers:

The Lineup: Andrew McCutchen CF, Chase d’Arnaud 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Matt Diaz LF, Garrett Jones RF, Steve Pearce 1B, Chris Snyder C, Pedro Ciriaco SS and Kevin Correia P.

The Pitchers: Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, Aaron Thompson, Tony Watson and Justin Thomas.

Game time is 7:05 in Tampa. Corriea will start against the Yankees' Bartolo Colon, and the game will be broadcast on FM Newstalk 104.7 and the Pirates Radio Network. Coverage begins at 7:00 PM.

-- Hurdle isn't afraid to shake and bake the spring lineup. McCutch is leading off, Pedro is batting third, and Matt Diaz is clean-up. We like that he's giving Steve Pearce and Pedro Ciriaco some quality time against the real Yankees, too, instead of bringing them in at the end against the NY rag-tags.

He also has Morton penciled in early so he'll go against the MLB lineup.

Hey, More Profiles

-- James McDonald (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

--Lyle Overbay (Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun)

-- Matt Diaz (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Chris Snyder (Ron Musselman, Post-Gazette)

-- Daniel McCutchen (Karen Price, Tribune-Review)

-- Tony Sanchez (Karen Price, Tribune-Review)

-- Nick Leyva (John Lembo,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bucs Put Up Three Spot In Ninth; Top Twins 5-2; B Team Loses

Ah, just like the good ol' days when the Buccos were the Kardiac Kids. Keyed by Andrew Lambo's two-run single in the ninth, the Pirates topped the Twins 5-2 today. The Pirates broke out of their hitting slump for a frame, collecting four of their eight hits in the ninth.

Lyle Overbay homered, and Ronny Cedeno had two hits (although he took himself off the bases by being thrown out at third stealing - twice, and both times with two outs. Curious timing.), and Pedro Ciriaco and Ryan Doumit chipped in with sac-fly RBI. The Bucs bent but didn't fold against the Twin Cities.

Minnesota pounded out out eleven hits, but a 1-for-12 RISP and pair of DPs helped limit the damage. They got both their runs off Rudy Owens; Brian Burres, Sean Gallagher and Chris Leroux were unscored on, as was Fernando Nieve, who put up a goose egg for the win but gave up four hits in his two innings of work.

Carl Pavano pitched four scoreless frames against Pittsburgh; Jeff Manship was the victim of the ninth-inning rally.

In the morning affair held on the Twin's back field, the Bucco's dropped a 4-2 "B" game decision. Andy Marte homered and Steve Pearce made a nice play at third to bail Brad Lincoln out of a bases-juiced jam; Bad Brad went two scoreless innings and saw a couple of the Twins' big boys.

Justin Morneau played in the "B" game, his first of any kind since a July concussion. Delmon Young, returning from turf toe, played too.

-- Scott Olsen threw 30 pitches during live BP; another live performance is scheduled for Thursday. If his leg holds up, he should be ready to go by the weekend.

-- In the "B" game, 2B prospect Brian Friday was hit in the hand by a pitch. The X-Rays were negative and he's day-to-day; we'll wait and see how it turns out. Friday seems to get one nagging injury every season.

Twins Twice

The Pirates play the Twins twice in Fort Myers today, with a B game scheduled for the morning.

Lineup "A" Game: Andrew McCutchen CF, Jose Tabata LF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Ryan Doumit C and Brian Burres P.

Pitchers "A" Game: Brian Burres, Sean Gallagher, Fernando Nieve, Chris Leroux, Jeff Locke and Daniel McCutchen.

Lineup "B" Game: Corey Wimberly SS, Alex Presley LF, Steve Pearce 3B, Andrew Lambo RF, Andy Marte 1B, Gorkys Hernandez CF, Jason Jaramillo DH, Brian Friday 2B and Wyatt Toregas C.

Pitchers "B" Game: Brad Lincoln, Bryan Morris, Kyle McPherson, Justin Wilson and Ramon Aguero.

The Pirates will play their "B" game at 10:05 AM, three hours before the scheduled 1:05 PM "A" game.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Camp Battles

Going into camp, there wasn't much mystery as to the core of the team. The position players were set, four of the five rotation spots were filled, and the back end of the bullpen was in place.

Even though they were just looking to fill in at the fringes, the FO did bring in some competition for the spots from outside the organization, mostly young and with some pedigree if not much in the way of MLB production, a departure from their vet career-backup philosophy of the past.

It appears that the final pitching spots may go down to the wire; nobody has really jumped up and grabbed a stranglehold on them yet.

Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln have shown signs that they may be capable of taking the fifth turn while Scott Olsen has yet to throw a spring pitch in anger, although he may be back by the weekend. Our sole insight so far is that Morton is the only one out of options, so we'd wager it's his job to lose.

There's no chance for a break-out hotshot like Rudy Owens or Justin Wilson heading north in April. If the aforementioned three all bomb, Hurdle will hand the ball to old dependables Brian Burres and Jeff Karstens and let the pups hone their craft in the minors for at least a while.

As for the bullpen, the posse of candidates vying to provide a bridge to Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan have yet to give us a reason to believe. Of course, none of them have worked much yet, either. The one minor-league guy who has taken advantage of the opportunity so far is Mike Crotta; in four appearances covering six frames, he has yet to yield a run.

But the bench spots feature some interesting arm-wrestling matches. For the corner infielders, the Pirates have Steve Pearce, back from surgery and taking balls at third base, and brought in Josh Fields, Andy Marte and Garrett Atkins, all guys who can go long.

Atkins is getting the longest look in the field and the majority of swings, and has a prior relationship with Hurdle from their Colorado days. Of the other three, only Marte is hitting the ball. But - and this is a big but - none of that trio has over eight at-bats so far.

This one has all the earmarks of going down to the wire. None are hindered by option problems. The three newcomers signed minor-league contracts, and Pearce has one option remaining.

The middle infielder slot looks like a duel between Josh Rodriguez and Pedro Ciriaco. Corey Wimberly, with his plus speed and ability to step into the OF for McCutch or Jose Tabata, has been fighting the ball in the infield and at the plate in the early sledding. He's running out of time to convince the brass that he's their man.

In the first couple of weeks, both Rodriguez and Ciriaco have gotten on base enough - their OBP is over .380 - and Ciriaco has the better glove and more speed. Rodriguez is considered closer to MLB-ready, but hasn't shown a lot of leather at short yet. He's projected as a second baseman.

When it comes to rug cutting time, Josh is a Rule 5 player and has to be returned to Cleveland if he doesn't make the big team, while Pedro has an option. And it may come down to that. To make the evaluation a little trickier, Rodriguez has quad problems and will be on ice for a few days.

The last bench spot is a poser; it could be an outfielder or a third catcher. Ryan Doumit is the linchpin here. John Bowker and Alex Presley are the OF candidates. Bowker has the better bat and some pop as a corner OF'er, but Presley can step into center or left if needed.

The catchers vying for the third spot behind Chris Snyder and Doumit are Jason Jaramillo and Dusty Brown, both good glove, questionable stick guys.

There are a lot of moving parts to this decision. Doumit can be a fifth OF'er if needed, but Bowker and Presley are better bets as pinch-hitters than the backstop guys and better gloves than Dewey.

If they keep a third catcher, Doumit can pinch hit; if they don't, Bowker could be the lefty off the bench. Of the group, Presley has the best wheels and can play anywhere in the pasture.

Bowker is the only guy without options; Brown signed a minor-league deal while Jaramillo and Presley have options left. This may be one decision that's mostly out of the players' hands and dependent on Doumit's role, if he lasts through the spring.

Rays Drop Bucs 4-2

Matt Diaz, who stranded five runners yesterday, showed what the Pirates hoped for today by mashing a two-run homer.

Unfortunately, the other Bucco bats were in the deep freeze for the second straight game and the squad dropped a 4-2 decision to Tampa Bay this afternoon. David Price and company held Pittsburgh to six hits on the heels of yesterday's four hit performance.

The Pirates also shot themselves in the foot by being thrown out stealing twice in three attempts; Ronny Cedeno was the only successful larcenist. Chris Snyder evened things up by gunning two of the three Rays who tried to swipe a base on his watch. Hurdle's runnin' Buccos have stolen 16 bases in 21 attempts, a 76% success rate.

Ohlie did OK, going three innings and giving up a run on three hits with a walk and two Ks while mixing some off-speed stuff into the repertoire. Evan Meek had a solid return, too, pitching a scoreless frame, as did Mike Crotta.

Tyler Yates gave up a pair in his 2/3 of an inning on the hill, and Jose Veras was touched for the other run in his frame; both hurt their own cause by issuing a pair of walks apiece. Danny Moskos went 1-1/3 scoreless innings, despite surrendering a walk and three hits.

The Pirates (5-7) visit the Twins tomorrow. Brian Burres starts against Minnesota's Carl Pavano, who the Pirates were flirting with in the off-season. The Twins and Pirates will first play a "B" game, with Brad Lincoln starting and Steve Pearce playing third base.

-- OF John Bowker has some soreness in his left wrist; it's not considered to be anything serious and he should return to action in a couple of days.

-- Rule 5 IF Josh Rodriguez reported some tightness in his right quad; he may miss up to week of play. That can't help his quest to land a roster spot.